QUICK NOTE: The good folks at XFINITY sent me deep into the Fijian wilderness to bring you an exclusive look at “Survivor: Game Changers.” While I was there I conducted interviews with “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and the entire 20-person cast. I also captured exclusive photos and other behind-the-scenes tidbits. So, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute updates.
Name: Aubry Bracco
Hometown: Cambridge, MA
Previously Played On:
“Survivor: Kaoh Rong” – Runner Up
Best Known For: Almost quitting early, then rallying to make it to the end.
Gordon Holmes: The popular opinion seems to be that you should have won “Survivor: Kaoh Rong.”
Aubry Bracco: I get that a lot.
Holmes: And you’ve had to live with this for a year before the world knew.
Holmes: The jury awarding the game to Michele over you…does that affect how you approach this second go-around?
Bracco: I’m not going to change who I am. I’m proud of the game I played. I’d never say I was robbed. Michele gave that jury what they needed at that moment. I’d never say she didn’t play a great social game. She had relationships that were deep enough, but not so deep that it really hurt when she turned on people. That was a great read on her part. But, there are many layers to it. It was a wild year. When I first got home I was staying at my parents’ house and I would wake up and I would be like, “Where’s Cyd? Where’s Michele?” And I knew the vote when it happened. I knew that it was five to two. I could tell by the body language of the jurors. I could let it bury me or I could make changes for the better. I decided to try to look at the positives and what I learned about myself. And when this second chance came along, I could really try to ground myself and realize how I was perceived. I did get a lot of conflicting messages from a lot of people. I was told to be confident by Nick at the final Tribal, yet Scot, Jason, and Julia in their final videos before Tribal said I played a fear-based game. They said they didn’t see my game. But, Scot and Jason also said they recognized my game when I was in a position of power. So, it really taught me how dynamic “Survivor” is. I always said when I watched the show, “I wish people would take responsibility for their actions.” And I always take responsibility for my actions. I don’t blame the end of the game on anyone but myself. Yes, there were factors, but the biggest lesson I got was the opposite of what everyone else got. You can’t control everything. You can play your cards as hard as you can and it still might not work out.
Holmes: Are you worried that people might not align with you for fear of getting injured?
Bracco: That’s my strategy. If I want someone gone, I’ll align with them so they’ll be med-evaced.
Holmes: Probably the unluckiest player of all time. Well, the people who got taken out were probably less lucky.
Bracco: Yeah, Neil wasn’t dealt the best hand.
Holmes: Caleb almost died.
Bracco: Yeah, that little detail. That was horrifying. And Joe ate too much meat.
Holmes: That’s how I want to be med-evaced.
Bracco: He gorged himself. He was like a Roman emperor. He just gunned that meat like it was nothing. And he hadn’t eaten meat in twenty years. His girlfriend, I don’t remember if she’s a vegan or vegetarian, but they don’t eat meat.
Holmes: The lesson is; you need to babysit your alliance members.
Bracco: I love Joe and Tai is wonderful, but I did spend a lot of time and emotional energy with the people I was with last time to keep them in line. You can’t control people, I understand that. But, there was a lot of effort put into having a balance between someone being on my side and not thinking I’m in control of them. I think this time I’m going to look for people who are stable threats to pad me. Like a Cydney. She was my rock out there.
Holmes: I would never think of the energy expended keeping someone who is wishy washy in line.
Bracco: You have to have a mix of stable and erratic and it has to be the right combination. And after my last season I think I know the kind of erratic I can work with and the kind I can’t. There’s very different kinds of erratic. There’s Debbie erratic, there’s Tai erratic, there’s Joe erratic. You have to know which ones you can work with.
Holmes: What was your first thought when you heard the subhead “Game Changers”?
Bracco: I was totally flattered. To me the experience was so deeply personal and I grew with the game. So, it was really cool that a game that so profoundly changed me, I was considered someone who changed it. It was awesome. And the reason I was a game changer is that I brought an authenticity to the game. I played with an emotional intelligence. I think other people play social games, but I think there was a different level to what I was playing where I think sometimes the best strategic move isn’t an emotional one. I don’t think people always get that. When I voted out Debbie, and I can finally say this now because it isn’t coming out until after this game is played, I made the move to vote out Debbie because emotionally I knew that Tai would never work with her. I knew that Tai held all the power in the game at that moment. I had to get rid of her to break things up so I could get to Tai.
Holmes: How do you feel about this cast?
Bracco: This is a killer cast. I’m flattered to be with some of these people. It’s like the Hall of Presidents at Disney for “Survivor” players. I can’t believe I’m sitting here and Tony is sitting next to me. And he’s exactly how he is on the show. I’m like, “Is this guy real?” There are players I really respect. I have a lot of respect for Malcolm’s game. Sandra, she’s won three times. She’s doing something right.
Holmes: Two times.
Bracco: Oh yeah, sorry. We’d be idiots to let Sandra win again. These people are powerhouses in different ways.
Holmes: Is there anyone you’re looking forward to working with?
Bracco: I could see myself working with Malcolm. I really respect Denise as a winner.
Holmes: I love me some Denise.
Bracco: Me too. And I think Malcolm is kind of a well-rounded player in the social, physical, strategic sense. I think of myself in a similar way. We’re different, but we’re rounded the same. I think it’s cool that Sarah is here. I think she had a lot of potential as a player, but she found herself in a funky situation in Cagayan. It isn’t very different than what happened with me. I got lucky that it didn’t completely bury me.
Holmes: Any early targets?
Bracco: I’m wary of Sandra because she’s won twice. She has a formula that works. I already see her scoping the room, looking for tension in between people that she can pick at. She’s good at identifying where there’s a weakness. She’s scary. Debbie is always going to be a wildcard because there’s history there. I don’t hold a grudge. I’d be open to working with Debbie. But, we know each other very well and that can sometimes be difficult.
Holmes: You’re one of four Kaoh Rongers…
Bracco: I know.
Holmes: That’s a fifth of the cast. Does that concern you?
Bracco: Yeah. I’m flattered to be here. When opportunity knocks, you have to take it. But, this is right after our finale and a lot of people say I was screwed at the end. The other thing is, there are four of us here. I’d be psyched if I was the only one. I’d much prefer that. But, once we get out there, people will see that we’re all incredibly different. Debbie is Debbie, Tai is Tai…he truly loves all human beings. I think he’s going to have that inner turmoil again because he’s such a wonderful person. Caleb…I don’t know. And then there’s me. I’m hoping people see that even though we’re from the same season, we’re not playing together.
Holmes: How about the newbies? What do you do with Michaela and Zeke?
Bracco: They have an opportunity to duck early bullets. But, there’s also a way to make people paranoid about them. As much as people think they don’t have beefs or connections, but it’s a chance to say, “Well, this person told me that. And now they’re gunning for you.” And because these people don’t know Zeke and Michaela, who are they to say what their tendencies are?
Holmes: Even though you’re not allowed to do Power Rankings, which I’m furious about…
Holmes: I came up with a game to help you. I’ll give you a reason someone might use to get rid of you. I need you to counter it.
Bracco: Oh, this is cool.
Holmes: Aubry was a part of the Brains tribe. I saw her on Kaoh Rong. I don’t want someone smarter than me around.
Bracco: You don’t want someone smart around here? There are a lot of wild cards around here. And if you want to get to the end you need someone who is stable and will play in a strategic way.
Holmes: Aubry turned it on at the end. She won rewards, she started fires, better to get rid of her early while we can.
Bracco: I think people are going to see me as a physical threat, but I didn’t win immunities when they were clutch.
Holmes: Weren’t you the second to last person standing a lot of the time?
Bracco: Yes, but it doesn’t matter unless you win
Holmes: Fair enough.
Bracco: So, maybe I’m a choker. I’m not the best at puzzles.
Holmes: They don’t lay down for you like lovers?
Bracco: No, they don’t lay down for me like they do for Debbie.
Holmes: I’m a big believer that the last season a cast saw before they head out sets the tone for their season.
Bracco: I agree.
Holmes: The popular opinion of the last season we saw was that Aubry was robbed. I don’t want to get to the end and have this jury reward her for Kaoh Rong.
Bracco: Yeah, people might think I was robbed, but just because my season aired doesn’t mean that these other people didn’t have seasons. We all have stories. I might get jury sympathy, but I’m not the only threat here.
Holmes: I don’t want some big four-person Kaoh Rong alliance after the merge.
Bracco: You think those people are going to merge together? Spend five minutes with them and you’ll see that that’s not going to happen. Tai has an axe to grind with Aubry because he feels like the wool was pulled over his eyes. Debbie went up there at the end and said, “Aubry, you were amazing, blah blah blah” and then didn’t vote for me. Tai went to Caleb’s wedding. They get along like peanut butter and Jelly.
Holmes: Talking about “Survivor” being a product of the last season the cast saw; the jury is going to vote for their reasons. The perception could be that the Kaoh Rong jury voted based on social game over a strategic game. Whether that’s true or not, do you think that’s something that could carry over?
Bracco: I think people will be looking at the Sierras and Halis and not underestimating them. I’m going to use that as an argument. You can’t take all the threats out, because if you’re at the end with someone who’s kind of chill…those people can win. It happened to me, it can happen to you.
Holmes: It can’t happen to me. Because I’m not on this season. And then I couldn’t do the Power Rankings.
Holmes: Are you a part of any pre-season alliances? Have you heard any rumblings?
Bracco: I have heard rumors that my name is on the block.
Holmes: How so?
Bracco: I’m not going to get too into it, but I’ve heard that people want to put my name before them. But hey. I’ve had some people reach out to me and I’m staying chill. For someone who has a sixth sense like I have and a gut feeling about people, as you saw on 32, there’s something to be said for getting on the beach and figuring things out.
Holmes: Are specific people putting your name on the block?
Bracco: I’m not going to say who.
Holmes: Fair enough, but how does that change your approach to those people?
Bracco: It’s a little bit scary. But, there’s a lot of chatter. And you can tell in pre-game that certain things you thought were true are going to unravel in a different direction. It’s just not that simple. A name is easy when the person isn’t in the room with you. In 32, I knew if I could work with someone based on how I felt sitting in silence with them. My senses calm down, and my sixth sense picks up.
Holmes: Your Spidey sense.
Bracco: It really is a Spidey sense.
Holmes: You’re in lockdown now, you’re not allowed to talk. But, people smile and nod. Are you doing any of that?
Bracco: There are certain people I feel comfortable around.
Holmes: Do they have names?
Bracco: (Laughs) Well, it kind of changes based on the day. When I first got here Malcolm and Ozzy seemed kind of stable. Sarah seems like she could be someone I could work with. It’s really cool to be in Cirie’s presence. I’m not sure which way she’s going to go. She’s got a game face on. Ciera has a really good game face on, you can’t read her. Hali is cool. I get a good vibe from her.
Holmes: Have you caught anyone else trying to communicate?
Bracco: Oh my gosh, JT with the winking. JT is such a flirt with everybody. Brad Culpepper can’t keep it in his pants…with the wanting to play.
Holmes: I wasn’t sure where you were going with that.
Bracco: (Laughs) No, I mean with the wanting to play. I have to be careful with that analogy. Certain people, I’m trying to see if they’re trying to undo something they did on their season or are they trying to get revenge? What are you trying to do? Ozzy was kind of America’s hero when he played, but in South Pacific he wasn’t the same Ozzy. I’m wondering if he wants to align with a Sophie to undo that. Or, is he wary of a girl like that.
Holmes: Are you a Sophie?
Bracco: I think Sophie is an easy person to jump to, but I’m my own beast.
Holmes: There’s no shame in that. I adore Sophie.
Bracco: Me too. She is whip smart. She’s got great observations. And when she said “Coach played like a little girl.” Oh my God.
Holmes: Alright, all of your opponents are in this deck of cards except for Michaela and Zeke, because we don’t know anything about them. I’ll give you three at random. You tell me who you vote out first, who you work with and eventually eliminate, and who you take to the end.
Bracco: This is amazing.
Holmes: Right? They’re laminated and everything.
Bracco: I’m impressed.
Round One: Tai, Sarah, and Caleb
Bracco: Align with Sarah…because she’s that kind of person who’s a stable strategy sounding board. She’s like a Cydney. Take Caleb to the end. He’s loyal to a fault and I think I could verbally beat him. I love you Tai, but I’m voting you out. I think you have a bone to pick with me.
Round Two: Cirie, Debbie, and Malcolm
Bracco: I’m voting out Debbie because the same thing as Tai. She has a bone to pick with me. I’ll align with Malcolm because I think he’s well-rounded. This is hard.
Holmes: Good, you need to flex those strategy muscles.
Bracco: Taking Cirie to the end, although we’re kind of the robbed goddesses. One of my regrets in 32 is that I had two people sitting next to me and neither of them were like me. They didn’t have the same strategic drive. So, when I spoke it came off as abrasive. I think Cirie is like me in a lot of ways.
Round Three: Troyzan, Ciera, and JT
Bracco: Voting out Ciera…I have a lot of respect for her as a strategic player. She’s scary. Aligning with JT, I think I could be his Stephen, but Stephen is going to beat him this time. I’ll take Troyzan to the end because I think he’s going to rub some people the wrong way.
Round Four: Brad, Tony, and Jeff
Bracco: (Laughs) Voting out Jeff because I don’t trust him not to flip. He’s acting like he’s very zen. And I love Jeff as a person. He’s trying to be yoga chill, but when he gets hungry he’s going to lose it. I don’t want to get Shirin’d. Align with Tony, then I’m going to beat the master at his own game before it’s too late. Go to the end with Brad. He’s going to piss people off. This is so fun!
Holmes: Good. It’s bad enough you have to talk to me, you might as well get some enjoyment.
Bracco: It’s like going to therapy. I couldn’t talk about it for a year, and in the interviews I knew I was coming back so I had to watch what I said. And, it was as dual interview.
Round Five: Sandra, Ozzy, and Andrea
Bracco: I’d vote Sandra out. But, part of me wants to align with her. OK, I’m going to vote out Andrea. She has a lot of game in her. I’ll align with Sandra, then smoke her post merge. I’ll take Ozzy to the end. We’ve both been to the end and I think I could verbally make a better argument than he could.
Holmes: Alright, we’ve got two left. Work with one and boot the other. Oh, and look who it is.
Round Six: Sierra and Hali
Bracco: That’s weird. I think these are the two most terrifying people in the game. I’m going to kill you. Not really.
Holmes: Oh, not really?
Bracco: (Laughs) I’ll vote out Sierra. I think she’s less predictable. I felt like I got less of a vibe on her game. I’ll work with Hali because I think she’s smart and will be a strategic sounding board.
Don’t miss the two-hour season premiere of “Survivor: Game Changers,” Wednesday March 8, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes